If you’re from the US, you likely tip. Not just any loose change, but a healthy 15%. You may even believe that 15% is mandatory and extra good service warrants a bit more.
Fact #1: Only in the US do we tip 15-20%.
Fact #2: Tipping is not expected in all countries. In fact, not in most countries.
Fact #3: In many Asian countries, tipping can be insulting.
Do I tip there or not?
The big question you should answer before you go.
To be very general:
In western developed countries such as Canada, UK, Mexico, Ireland, Scotland, you give 10%.
In some Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam – no tipping! (While in China, a few percent tip is okay and well received.)
How much do I tip?
First, before I add any general advice, listen to local friends in that specific country. If you’re not there yet, or have no local friends, then read on.
In the US, tip is calculated based on the paid service. In the US, that’s 15%, period.
I do the math also in Canada, UK, Australia, where I give 10%. Western Europe in general is 10%.
Not in Central and Eastern Europe (Switzerland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic), where tipping is not a calculated 10%. Instead you just “round up.”
It’s a convenient way. For example, when paying for lunch in the Czech Republic, you round up to the nearest 10 Koruna (~50 cents). Say your meal is 147 Czech Koruna. You pay by saying “150 please.” Same if your meal were 141 or 149: “150, please.” While the tip varies from 1% to several percent, it’s not so important as making it easier on the staff to return little change.
This brings up the next question: “How do I give my tip?”
How do I give my tip?
Best advice is to watch others as they pay or leave their table. Note if they leave money aside on the table, or maybe as they pay their bill, they then return more to the staff? Or, in some places like in Prague, you hear the amount, then tell them how much you’re giving.
In the USA:
Waiter asks for $15. You leave $17 or $18.
Waiter asks for 100 yuen. You leave 100 yuen.
Waiter asks for 147 koruna. You give 150 and say “150.” (else he’ll return 5 to you with no issue).
So my tip Is too much – So What?
It’s easy to feel there’s little wrong with tipping too much. Especially when it doesn’t feel wrong to you. But check out these 2 scenarios:
Firstly, imagine a place called “Somewheregistan.” Imagine your friend visiting from Somewheregistan and you go out for breakfast. Your friend tips the server 75%, just because that’s how they do it in Somewheregistan. That friend stands out as a bit odd, perhaps a bit foolish and spent more money than needed to express his appreciation for the service. A healthy 20% tip in the US or rounding up another 10 Koruna in Prague would have made the same point – for much less.
Second scenario: a servant assists you in a country based on hierarchy and ” one’s place” in society. A tip is an acknowledgment against their defined role to serve you. Perhaps better to express appreciation by a smile and a nod of gratitude. In short, a tip just insulted them and put an awkward spin on your ‘relationship.’
Lastly, be mindful of whenever “Service charge” is put on a restaurant bill. This is gratuity already applied. One crazy exception is Hong Kong, where one gives 10% above the service charge.
Everyone’s different, so be glad you did your homework! 🙂